After years of hoping to crush Linux, Microsoft is trying to show it can get along with its open-source rival.
The software maker is announcing a partnership Monday night that will make sure its next virtualization technology can run versions of Linux that have been adapted for a different, open-source virtualization foundation called Xen reports News.com. It is linking up with commercial software maker XenSource to offer joint development and support for the two technologies, which take a similar approach.
"What Microsoft and XenSource are committing to, effectively, is building a bridge" between the two tools, said Jeff Price, a senior director in Microsoft's Windows Server group.
Both are based on the notion of a hypervisor--that is, low-level software that lets multiple operating systems share the same hardware. An operating system must be adapted for Xen to run best on the hypervisor. However, features in new processors from Intel and Advanced Micro Devices let unmodified operating systems, such as Windows, run on Xen. The Microsoft-XenSource collaboration is designed to return the compliment, letting Linux adapted for Xen also run on Microsoft's hypervisor.
Xen is available now, and was added this week to Novell's Suse Linux Enterprise Server 10. Microsoft's hypervisor technology (code-named Viridian) is still more than a year away. It is slated to be shipped within six months of Longhorn Server, the operating system update set for delivery at the end of 2007. A beta, or test, version of Viridian is scheduled to be ready by the close of 2006, Microsoft said.
When Microsoft said Viridian wouldn't ship at the outset with Longhorn Server, some expected that meant it would arrive with Service Pack 1, due at least 18 months later, in 2009. But Microsoft indicated in April it wanted to release Viridian sooner.
Microsoft has been working in several areas to improve how well Windows and Linux interoperate, a reflection of the company's slow realization that open-source software is not going away. On the virtualization front, it already has added Linux support in its Virtual Server product.
The arrangement comes as virtualization, or using one computer to act as many, takes center stage for the software industry. There is increasing interest in having a single PC or server run many different operating systems, rather than one operating system. The shift is bringing profound technological and business model challenges to software companies.